Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Compiled By Eric Tiansay

Ministry to the Better Half

January conference aims to provide training and inspiration for women 'in the fishbowl'--pastors' wives.

Overlooked, overstressed, overscrutinized--all words that describe the life of a pastor's wife.

A recent survey by the Barna Research Group reinforced this perception, finding that "49 percent of pastors revealed that their family life suffered significantly as a result of pressure and demands of ministry."

But leading ladies will garner some much-needed TLC in their roles as marriage partners, mothers and church leaders to start the new year. In the first large-scale effort to reach out and support pastors' wives, the Global Pastors Wives Network (GPWN) is hosting "Free to Soar," a three-day conference Jan. 25-27 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Women from 200 countries and various denominations are scheduled to attend the gathering, which features leading pastors' wives who will teach and lead discussions on marriage, leadership, church life, home life and health.

GPWN was founded by Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and led by Lois Evans, wife of well-known Dallas pastor Tony Evans. They said pastors' wives are often thrust into the ministry spotlight with little training and support.

"Pastors' wives live in a fishbowl," Bright says. "They have very little privacy and nowhere to turn when they are struggling with marriage, family or personal problems. At times, the wife of a pastor can be the most isolated and lonely person on earth. She needs help."

"Most female church members go to the pastor's wife for counsel and help with personal issues. However, the pastor's wife does not have the same option," notes Lois Evans, who is president of GPWN.

"These courageous women often feel they have no one to turn to when they need counsel and encouragement for the issues they face. It could be a very lonely and isolating place to be. And, the guilt that they feel can be immense--simply because they are expected to 'have it all together'; after all, they are a pastor's wife!"

"There is not only help for their journey, but they also can experience joy and freedom to soar in every way and in every season of life," Evans says. "Yes, life in the fishbowl can be wonderful and we are going to show women from around the globe how God can and will equip them to fulfill their vital roles at home, at church and in their community."

The event is scheduled to feature more than 40 speakers and teachers, including Victoria Osteen, Serita Jakes, Diana Hagee, Gayle Haggard and Anna Hayford.

GPWN is a ministry of Global Pastors Network (GPN), which was founded by the late Bill Bright and current president/CEO James Davis. In January 2004, GPN hosted more than 6,000 pastors, leaders and volunteers from 43 nations and 80 denominations at the Beyond All Limits 2 conference in Orlando, Fla.

For more information on the Free to Soar conference, visit or call 1-888-341-4801.


Weekday Conversions Increase

Ninety percent of decisions for Christ occur outside church walls and apart from weekend worship services.

The weekend church service is no longer the main venue for salvation decisions. That's the conclusion of a new survey by The Barna Group (TBG), which found that only one out of every 10 believers who makes a decision to follow Christ does so in a church setting or service.

The study revealed that among children, personal relationships played a huge role in their decision-making, as a friend or relative led 70 percent to Jesus. For those ages 13 through 21, 56 percent were led to Christ by a friend or relative, while 20 percent said it was a specific event that led to their conversion.

"Just as our nation's culture has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, so has the way in which people come to Christ," TBG founder George Barna explains. "The weekend church service is no longer the primary mechanism for salvation decisions. On the other hand, personal relationships have become even more important in evangelism, with a majority of salvation decisions coming in direct response to an invitation given by a family member or friend.


COGIC and AG Partner for Education

Two of the nation's largest Pentecostal denominations have joined forces through an inner-city college campus.

In August, the Assemblies of God (AG) and the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) agreed to a corporate partnership to operate the School of Urban Missions (S.U.M.), an urban Bible college in Oakland, Calif., and New Orleans.

It marks the first time that the two Pentecostal fellowships have come together on such a joint project. Previously, the AG had sole possession of both campuses, but collaboration with a like-minded Pentecostal group is designed to produce a more effective ministry, leaders say.

Memphis, Tenn.-based COGIC, a predominately black fellowship, is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The AG, based in Springfield, Mo., is the largest white Pentecostal denomination in the nation. S.U.M. has more than 130 students enrolled for the fall 2004 term, around two-thirds of whom are African American.

W.W. Hamilton, secretary to the COGIC general board, adds: "Those who see the unifying move of God will rejoice in the coming together of the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ to accomplish God's purpose of preparing men and women for relevant and effective ministry."

George Neau, S.U.M.'s chancellor, believes that the partnership marks the first step toward the two denominations overcoming the past and learning to appreciate each other's cultural uniqueness.

"We can make resolutions, but resolutions don't create fellowship. Fellowship is something each must actively embrace. That is what this partnership was designed to accomplish," explains Neau, who is an AG missionary.

"We are even considering having a joint conference between the Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God," he adds. "It's just a start, and it's going to take courageous leadership, but each fellowship can learn and grow from each other."

Neau founded the first S.U.M. in New Orleans in 1993. The school meets in a three-story, 17,000-square-foot building. "This will have more than just an affect on the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ," Neau says, "the impact will be felt worldwide."


35-Year Church Giving Stagnation

Churches are spending more on themselves and less on outside ministries.

American churches are turning inward and spending more on themselves. According to Empty Tomb's The State of Church Giving through 2002 (, church members were at a 35-year low in supporting activities beyond their congregations, from 0.66 percent of per capita income in 1968 to 0.38 percent in 2002, a decline of 41 percent.

The survey of more than 100,000 Protestant congregations also showed that giving to benevolence declined from 2001 to 2002.

So why don't church members give more? Empty Tomb researchers proposed that the problem is greed and a lack of leadership from pastors.

"Why is there no creative leadership to challenge church members to change?" Empty Tomb asks. "Church leaders have other agendas than doing the hard work of discipling church members to increase missions giving."

Joe Coffey, co-senior pastor since 1997 of Hudson Community Chapel, located in a suburb of Cleveland, says American churches face the challenge of "developing a culture of giving instead of receiving."

"We try to emphasize in our membership that our goal is help people come to know Jesus, grow in that relationship and learn to serve Him daily," Coffey told Ministries Today. "All of our people can know, grow and serve."

He added that his nondenominational church, which draws around 2,000 adults per weekend, always "had a strong emphasis on missions."

"When we built our current building our elders decided to tithe all the money that came in for the building to help with construction of churches around the world," Coffey says. "I think that is when I knew that giving and missions had become part of our culture."

He noted that of the church's annual budget of $3.4 million, his congregation gives approximately $850,000 to local and global outreach annually.


World Relief President Resigns

Clive Calver will continue commitment to local church by pursuing pastoral ministry in the U.S.

After seven years as president of World Relief, British charismatic minister Clive Calver resigned to pursue his passion for preaching in the local church. Although he gave up his post effective Sept. 30, Calver will continue as minister-at-large until the end of March for the global aid organization and relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"I've always promised myself that the last chapter of my life would be pastoring a local church," Calver told Ministries Today. "I came to World Relief to make it a church agency and that has happened. It's time to go."

"I've been asked to pastor in Australia and Afghanistan," he explains. "My wife and I felt like the U.S. is where God wanted us to be."

"I've seen Christians who have nothing, giving all they've got to a brother or sister in Christ," he says. "I've seen sacrifice as a way of life. We should never feel bad for what we've got in America. But we do need to learn how to give.

"To me if you can get people to sacrifice, practice servanthood and invade society, then I believe you can change the world," Calver adds.

World Relief officials say Calver will be missed, noting that "his greatest legacy will be his unwavering commitment that the mission of World Relief be accomplished through the local church."

"World Relief will always regard Clive Calver as the man who led the organization to a place of respect and partnership with a growing number of American churches," says Gordon MacDonald, the chair of World Relief's board of directors.

An ordained minister through the Free Church of England, Calver came to World Relief after serving 14 years as head of the Evangelical Alliance in England. World Relief executive director Tim Ziemer will serve as acting chief executive officer while the organization seeks a new leader.

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